Late Spring Panzanella - Eat Drink Better

Late Spring Panzanella

I just got back from canoe camping in the Ozarks with my mom and boyfriend. Since you don’t have to carry your food when you go canoe camping, you can plan more elaborate meals. They always taste extra delicious after a day of paddling!

Here’s our favorite from the trip, a late spring panzanella with patty-pan squash and sugar snap peas. It’s perfect for a picnic!

For the croutons:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups day-old bread, crust removed, cubed
  • 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 of a red onion, diced
  • 5 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

For the salad:

  • 4 large leeks
  • 1 pound patty-pan squash
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 1 19-ounce can of white beans, rinsed and drained or 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans
  • 6 tablespoons shaved Parmesan (optional)
  • 1 cup radish shoots or pea shoots (optional)

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1. To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix the bread cubes with the garlic, olive oil, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Toss to coat the bread with the oil mixture. Transfer bread to a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake, stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside but still soft inside, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside and let cool. (I made the croutons ahead of time and stored them in a container.)

2. To make the vinaigrette, mix the red onion with the vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and dijon. Set aside. (I stored the dressing in a mason jar until I was ready to assemble the salad.)

3. Cut off the green tops of leeks and trim root ends. Halve each leek lengthwise and then chop. Dunk leek slices in a bowl of cool water, swishing to let grit and sand sink to the bottom. Strain leek slices to remove excess water. (Click here for more info on preparing leeks.)

4. Trim the stems off of the patty-pan squash and slice the squash into bite size chunks (halves or quarters depending on size… if the squash are super tiny you can leave them whole).

5. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute until tender. Add the patty-pan squash and cook until just crisp-tender. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool. Mix in the sugar snap peas and white beans once the leeks and squash are cool. (I made this salad mixture ahead of time and stored it in the cooler until it was time to eat.)

6. To assemble the salad, place the squash-pea mixture in a large bowl and mix in the cooled croutons. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss well. Garnish with shaved Parmesan and radish shoots or pea shoots, if you like. (I assembled the salad on the river right before lunch!)

Look for patty-pan squash and sugar snap peas at your local farmers market in the late spring through summer.

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Spring Panzanella.

Image courtesy of beautifulcataya via a Creative Commons license.

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About the Author

I'm an ecologist turned journalist turned farmer-in-training. I'm currently working on an organic farm and creamery in Illinois. Follow me on twitter (http://twitter.com/rachelshulman), friend me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=3105709), or follow me on StumbleUpon (http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/RachelShulman/).